Milkwood Micro-Forest Garden
The Milkwood Micro-Forest Garden was designed and implemented during the October 2011 Forest Garden Design Workshop held at Milkwood Farm. The goals of the design were to develop a Forest Garden that was small and simple. A garden that could demonstrate to visitors of Milkwood Farm the principles of Forest Gardening and show that it is possible on the small scale as well as the large scale.
Before the course the area was prepared with the help of Kelly and Minoru, the 2012 Forest Garden interns at Milkwood Farm. A central circle was prepared with paths wide enough for a wheelbarrow and two adjacent beds were prepared with keyhole paths.
The site is located next to the Milkwood woolshed in an area that receives lots of runoff from the road up-hill. This site condition meant that we decided to develop paths that were able to catch and store the water running across the site. The paths were sunk into the ground 10cm and made level so that the paths would fill up before overflowing into the next path. The paths were then filled with limestone gravel.
During the course the students mapped the site and then started to develop planting guilds that could be used in the different garden beds. The primary crop trees were selected for each bed, we used greengage and plums that were available from the farm. Students then selected plants that helped these stone fruit trees obtain all of their required resources, including pollination, Nitrogen, nutrients, grass exclusion and pest control.
Students worked in groups to develop designs for the site. These designs were then collated into a master plan which utilised the common patterns and best designs from each group.
A list of the functions of the selected plants is shown below.
The students on the course installed this design on the morning of the third day of the course. It was great fun and amazing to see what 15 people can achieve working together. The site was broad-forked before plantings to aerate the soil and compost and straw mulch was added to the site to build fertility. As the garden develops it will diversify into different layers to provide structural diversity and allow photosynthesis to occur at different levels, increasing the productivity of the system.
After the course an irrigation system was installed to irrigate the garden every second day to help the plants establish in this tough site.
The Micro-Forest Garden was a great success with all of the trees establishing successfully. With continued irrigation the trees should be established and able to grow without irrigation. As the deep rooted plants like comfrey continue to grow they will build more carbon in the soil so that the soil can hold more water.